One of the most intellectually engaging, politically challenging and personally gratifying periods of my life was the time I spent as an adviser to former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, working with Member States and people across the world to articulate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted by world leaders at a moving ceremony in 2015, this landmark plan, encapsulated in 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), points the way towards a future of dignity, prosperity and peace for all. At this still-early stage in our efforts to seize the Agenda's potential and fulfil its promises, I am deeply honoured to have been asked by current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to serve as his Deputy, and thereby to again serve the world's people in this essential work.
I know from the economy and experiences of my own country, Nigeria, that the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources is integral to the 2030 Agenda and its goals to end extreme poverty and hunger, and to promote peaceful and sustainable social and economic development for all nations. With oceans now near or at the limit of their ability to provide for human needs and remain viable ecosystems, only the United Nations can mobilize the type of transformative action needed at the global, regional and national level to reverse this trend.
In many coastal developing countries and small island developing States, maintaining and restoring the health and resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves and coral reefs, are vital for protection from natural hazards such as extreme storms and sea level rise. They are also essential for promoting food security, protecting livelihoods and safeguarding broader economic development. Marine fisheries provide jobs for 300 million people and help meet the nutritional needs of 3 billion people. The role of fisheries is particularly profound in many of the world's poorest communities, where fish are a critical source of protein, essential micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. The fishing sector provides a social safety net, particularly for women, who are a majority in secondary activities related to marine fisheries and marine aquaculture, such as fish processing and marketing.
The oceans are also experiencing major stress from climate change. Globally, the sea level has risen by 20 centimetres since the start of the twentieth century, due mostly to thermal expansion of the...